The City of S(e)oul


As I mentioned before, I got a really bad case of Fernweh* after returning to Germany. As one way to cope with it (or intensify it), I started watching a lot of Korean movies. There was something really neat about watching Train to Busan when you’ve taken that titular train yourself not too long ago, or watching The Host after spending hours upon hours strolling along Hangang. And at some point along the way, an idea grew…what if I made a music video about Seoul and/or Korean cinema? Well…I did, and here it is.

More walls of text after the break.

*the popular notion that Germans have a word for everything is wildly exaggerated, but I guess there is a grain of truth to it


I have a bit of a history of making these kinds of videos. Mostly they’re about pro wrestling or MMA, but I have made a handful of cinematic pieces as well, like my absurdly time-consuming love letter to American Splendor and Paul Giamatti. Ir’s something I’ve been involved with to some degree all the way back since 2005, and I guess you could say it’s something pretty close to my heart.

So yeah…making a video like this seemed like a no-brainer given my inability to get Seoul out of my head.

The basic concept is to see how Seoul is represented in (Korean) movies. And once I found a kitschy but perfectly fitting song, it was just a matter of time. I was especially interested by how different movies represented the same iconic and everyday places in Seoul, like Hangang, or the subway system.

I hope you enjoy the video, and if you have the chance to watch some Korean movies or even visit Seoul (and Korea in general), go for it! I can’t recommend it highly enough.


Video: “City of Soul”; Outro: “Flow”
by Kim Yoon-Ah (김윤아)


The movies:

Cold Eyes (2013)
dir. Ui-seok Jo,
Byung-seo Kim

감시자들 (2013)
감독: 조의석, 김병서

Café Noir (2009)
dir. Jung Sung-Il

카페 느와르 (2009)
감독: 정성일

The Unjust (2010)
dir. Ryoo Seung-wan

부당거래 (2010)
감독: 류승완

The Host (2006)
dir. Bong Joon-ho

괴물 (2006)
감독: 봉준호

Bin-Jip / 3-Iron (2004)
dir. Kim Ki-duk

빈집 (2004)
감독: 김기덕

The Man from
Nowhere (2010)
dir. Lee Jeong-beom

아저씨 (2010)
감독: 이정범

Train to Busan (2016)
dir. Yeon Sang-ho

부산행 (2016)
감독: 연상호

Oldboy (2003)
dir. Park Chan-wook

올드보이 (2003)
감독: 박찬욱

The Chaser (2008)
dir. Na Hong-jin

추격자 (2008)
감독: 나홍진


Some sources of inspiration for this project:

-> I did quite a lot of research for this, and it wasn’t easy. Just searching for stuff like “movies in Seoul” didn’t return that many meaningful results (at least for me), so I ended up browsing up quite a lot. Here are some of the more interesting sources and inspirations I came across:

-> Colin Marshall on Korea is always worth a read, and it turns out that cities and their representation on the big screen is one of his favorite topics, which he has covered extensively for cities like LA. Somehow, that fact escaped me until pretty late in the process. Here, for example, are his thoughts on Café Noir and the representation of Seoul in cinema over the years.

-> Marshall also did an episode of his lovely podcast on Korean film, where he interviewed Darcy Parquet of Here’s where I found out about Cold Eyes.

-> Here’s Darcy Parquet on historical depictions of Seoul. I briefly considered also trying to go for a “Seoul over the years” theme, as the city changes at such a rapid pace, but that would’ve been way too much to try to cram into one video. Oh well, maybe that’s another project sometime down the line.

-> You can find a ton of old-ish Korean movies on Youtube, including subtitles.

-> The Places in Seoul Cinema Fell in Love with is an ebook released a couple of years ago by the Korean government(?) that showcases a bunch of iconic sights in Seoul and the movies and dramas that captured them. It’s…okay? Wasn’t super helpful to be honest, but contains some nice information nonetheless if you want to find out if and where a particular place in Seoul was captured on film. Turns out even Chung Ang University was the site of some TV drama! Definitely would have included that if it was a movie, but I decided to stay away from dramas altogether.

-> Here’s an academic article that led me to discover Café Noir (and Breathless, which I didn’t end up using): Seoul Flâneur? Breathless and Café Noir


Ignoring unforeseen circumstances, there’s a pretty good chance this is the last post on this blog. I guess it wouldn’t hurt to subscribe though in case it isn’t. Or follow me on twitter @dynamic_jonas, I guess.

Spending time in Korea has been an incredibly rewarding experience, but it’s time to get back to reality – and that reality, unfortunately, is pretty far removed from Korea right now. Thanks for being along for the ride!


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